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Outdoor Christmas Lights

edited December 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
I just got my D3200 camera with 2 lenses, a 18-55mm and a 55-200mm. I am an admitted rank amateur with the DSLR camera and was wondering about settings while taking pictures of peoples houses that are decorated with multiple types of Christmas lights. Any suggestions?


  • edited December 2015
    Tripod is pretty much mandatory here. I would set camera on tripod, and keep ISO as low as you can get. Use a mode that does not operate the flash - my usual go-to mode is Aperture priority. Set the aperture at a medium one, around f/8 for starters, and focus on one of the lights that you want sharpest. If on a tripod, manual focus might work best, but you can also use single servo, single point focus. In the dark you'll need to aim at a light for AF to work.

    Make sure your focal point is set where you want it. The little red light shows what your focal point is. The [OK] button centers it, and the back control moves it to any of the 9 focal areas. It's easy to move by accident, so check it frequently.

    Make sure you turn off Auto ISO to force the camera to use low ISO and long shutter speed when you're on a tripod. Also best to turn off VR.

    The camera's automatic exposure will get you any shutter speed up to 30 seconds, which should be plenty for this. If you find that even 30 seconds is not working, increase ISO by a couple of stops, but don't go too high or your dark areas will start looking less clean.

    The camera's meter will tend to make everything too bright. You can either dial down the exposure in post processing (if you shoot raw, this is easy in View NX2, and will also reduce noise a bit as a bonus), or exposure compensate in the camera. Try about two stops in the [-] direction to start with, and see if that gives you what you're looking for.

    If you try to shoot hand held it will probably be blurry from camera movement, but you can try if you're adventurous. For this you'll need high ISO, a wide open lens, and VR on. The wider your focal length (i.e. closer to 18), the less you'll be bothered by both shake and shallow depth of field.

    You may also want to turn off "Active D-lighting" in the camera's menu. This is a feature that helps to increase dynamic range, and in the process it tends to open up shadows. For the best night time pictures, a narrower dynamic range with blacker shadows may work better.
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